Call for Papers: Rural History 2019 panel proposal – Innovative peasants

RHN 152/2018 | Call

Organiser: Antoni Furio (Department of Medieval History, Valencia University)

Rural History 2019, 10-13 September 2019, Paris, France

Deadline for paper proposals: 15 December 2018


Call for Papers:
Rural History 2019 panel proposal
Innovative peasants. Land property, investment, work and agrarian change in late Middle Ages

The rural history of the late Middle Ages has been traditionally distorted by prejudices and common places that, despite having been fought and dismantled by the medievalists for a long time, continue to be very resistant. One is that of an autarchic Middle Ages, closed in on itself, characterized by self-consumption and technical stagnation. What has been denied by the research carried out in the last twenty or thirty years, in particular by the British historiography, which has shown the extent of the commercialization of the late medieval English society. The other is that of a passive peasant, averse to risk and innovation. Most of the studies on technical and productive progress and, in general, on agrarian change have focused on lords and ‘capitalist’ entrepreneurs (England) and on citizens and urban owners (Low Countries, Northern Italy), totally neglecting the role of peasants, unable to promote or implement such advancements, from the improvement and extension of irrigation systems to the introduction of new, more commercial crops.

This panel intends, on the contrary, to focus on the initiative of the peasants in the implementation of such progress. Peasants were not insensitive to the stimuli of the market and tried to orient agricultural production towards commercialisation and the benefits that this entailed. The panel proposes first to study the peasant property, whether free or allodial as that held in tenure (emphyteusis), and the possibilities that the regime of possession of the land granted to the peasant at the time of selling, bequeathing, yielding, mortgaging the land, faced with the limitations that leasing and sharecropping entailed. Secondly, investments in money and labour by peasants will be examined in order to apply technical and productive improvements. In particular, the role of peasants in the management of irrigation systems, in their extension and improvement, and in the introduction of new crops, more clearly commercial, will be studied.

All this in order to provide a more nuanced vision of the peasants’ contribution to the agrarian change and end with a view that presents them as the bastions of the agricultural stagnation, reluctant to any kind of change. If possible, the panel will also address the different trajectories or ways followed by England, the Low Countries, Italy, France and Spain in the transition from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern period.

We welcome paper proposals that discuss cases from different regions. Proposals of about 250 words should be sent to the convener together with a short CV. The deadline is December 15, 2018. We will inform you about our decision by January 7, 2019.

Antoni Furio,


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